Educational and Spooky- A Day Trip to Salem MA

Living just under two hours from Salem, Massachusetts, my family has visited many times for a multitude of reasons. Salem in a port city founded in 1626. It is now most famous for its Witch Trails of 1692, and it’s author Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is also full of colonial architecture, world-class museums, and fun shopping and restaurants. Whether you are interested in art, pirates, witches, or history, you can easily spend more than a day here. But if you only have one day, a great day it will be! Read on for a few ideas to plan your Salem day trip.

Salem day trip
A delightful organic sculpture- Stickworks installation on Hawthorne Street in Salem, MA in 2016.

An Educational Exploration of Salem- Exploring The Crucible and Salem Witch Trials

Witch Hysteria was sweeping Europe, the governor of Massachusetts, William Phips, was off fighting the Indian Wars, just one of the wars raging around the Puritans of Salem. The Puritans, who believed in an invisible world, became part of a hysteria of their own which was immortalized in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Many of the museums and tours in Salem served to teach about the trials. Some are factual, and many tell a great story. My husband is an English literature teacher, so one visit we took was to research for his teaching. We took our three boys, who were very entertained. Years before, I had visited with my then sixth-grader, who was also very interested in Salem after reading a book about the trials.

ghost hunting in salem massachusetts
Spooky entrance to Salem, MA’s Witch History Museum

Witch Dungeon Museum

ghost hunting in Salem massachusetts
Imprisoned in front of The Witch Dungeon Museum in Salem, MA.

Our first stop was the Witch Dungeon Museum. It has a recreation of the witch trial courtroom with actors. There is also a life-sized model of the dungeons where the accused witches were kept. It was very touristy but did give a good overview of the realities and whys of the trials. There are many re-creation museums in this town and you probably only need to visit one.

 Witch History Museum

We then went to the Witch History Museum. It was less interactive than the Witch Dungeon Museum, but I preferred this tour as I felt I learned more. Be sure to read the signs with all the facts in the waiting room. They were very informative but had a few historical inaccuracies per my husband as all the museums did. Tours start every half hour.

Walking Tour- Myths and Misconceptions through the Essex National Heritage Organization

This no-frills walking tour will give you a factual overview of the witch trials. It visits the Salem Witch Trial Memorial and the town’s oldest cemetery, the Old Burying Point.

Tour the Witch House

Although no witches or trails happened here, the Jonathan Corwin House is the only house still standing with a tie to the trials. Jonathan Corwin was one of the judges for the trials. The house, built in the 1600s is open to be toured.

Nathaniel Hawthorne and Salem, Massachusetts

Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, was born and raised in Salem. He is a descendant of one of the witch trial judges, John Hathorne.

Visit The House of the Seven Gables

ghost hunting son Salem Massachusetts
Salem’s House of the Seven Gables is beautifully situated on the water with lovely gardens in bloom in September.
A visit to House of the Seven Gables is always one a visit’s highlights as I am an avid reader and a big fan of the Scarlet Letter and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The house was the inspiration for his book of the same title. It is an architecturally exciting house with beautiful gardens. The entrance fee includes a guided house tour and entrance into other historical homes that were moved to the property, including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace. All the staff was amicable and willing to tell my son stories.

Spooky Things to do in Salem, Massachusetts with Kids

When my oldest son and I came for a visit late one September, we were looking to experience Salem’s spookiness. If you want to see Salem at its spookiest, consider visiting at Halloween.

Salem Witch Village

Salem, Massachusetts with kids
Welcome to Salem’s Witch village, which is a historical recounting of witches.

My son wanted to learn more about witches. At the Salem Witch Village. He learned what lore was actual and about the origins of some of our holidays. Our guide, Michael, did a great job educating us and keeping us entertained. The museum is on an alleyway with many other witch-themed attractions and haunted houses.

Salem’s Sinister Stories Ghost Tour

ghost hunting son salem Massachusetts
Kenneth’s storytelling enchanted my son on Salem’s Sinister Stories Ghost Tour in the Asian tree garden of the Peabody Essex Museum.

By far our favorite part of our day was our 5 o’clock ghost tour with the interesting Kenneth of Sinister Stories of Salem. He has a long history in Salem. Kenneth is a Quaker, very soft-spoken and a born storyteller. To be sure that you can hear him, he wears a microphone. He walked through town, sometimes breaking out in mournful songs or stopping to tell ghost stories related to the town’s histories. His information was both historical and supernatural. The 90-minute tour went well over two hours, and my son and I were never bored. In December he does a different tour regarding St. Nicholas lore that I am interested in going back for.

ghost hunting son salem massachusetts

Somewhere in the corner near the haunted Murphy’s bar, you can hear the sounds of a child ghost. The old stones in Salem’s Old Burying Point lying under the same type of black trees used in hangings.

ghost hunting son Salem Massachusetts

The walking tour took us through most of the historical center of town, including the Old Burial Point, Witch Trials Memorial, Corwin House, and the Joshua Ward House.
ghost hunting son Salem massachusetts
The haunted Joshua Ward house is right next to a haunted Dunkin Donuts- now that’s New England!
The story of the haunted Dunkin’ Donuts next to the Joshua Ward house seemed a perfect meeting of old and new world New England to me. Because it is on the land that George Corwin’s home, the sheriff in the witch trials, was on it is now reportedly haunted. The Joshua Ward house is being converted into a high-end hotel- you can pay big bucks to sleep with the ghosts in the future, perhaps!

Shopping and Eating in Salem, Massachusetts

Essex Street Pedestrian Mall

Ghost hunting in Salem Massachusetts
Intriguing sculpture of the landmass of Salem, MA on Essex Street. In the summer it is full of water and kids can be seen playing in the water.

There are great restaurants and shops all around town, but this pedestrian mall is a fun and comfortable place to explore.

Food Worth Eating in Salem, Massachusetts

Ghost hunting with my boy in Salem, Massachusetts.
Surprisingly excellent homemade salted caramel brownie ice cream at Salem Screamery in Salem, MA.

Melt Ice Cream

We had first visited this spot a few years ago when this was Salem Screamery. Thankfully, the new owner has switched over to only homemade ice cream and still has a memorable salted caramel brownie.

Tavern in the Square

They claim the best burgers, and we did quite enjoy the bacon brie burger. We also love the location, right on the pedestrian Essex Street, and the patio over the fountain map of Salem.

Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie

On the Heritage Trail across from the House of the Seven Gables is the US’ oldest candy shop, Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie. It contains some delightful early candy making machines as well as most types of candy for sale.

Where should I park in Salem?

It is an extremely walkable town. If you follow the red line (the Heritage Trail) on the sidewalk, you will pass all its historical markers. Parking is all street parking with meters that only accept quarters, so bring many. Although parking is plentiful everywhere downtown, it was inconvenient that you had to move off the block every four hours. If you are staying longer than four hours, it may be best to park in one of Salem’s two parking lots.
If you are taking a day trip to Salem from Boston, you won’t have to deal with parking if you take the ferry! Book your ferry from Boston to Salem here.
Read on for more New England fall Adventures information on traveling with kids or more information about Massachusetts!
A family day in Salem, Massachusetts- history, food, lore and fun! A perfect fall family activity for tweens.

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10 thoughts on “Educational and Spooky- A Day Trip to Salem MA”

  1. Well done, it’s all really interesting stuff. Haven’t been to Salem but I saw The Crucible last year and was chilled to the bone by what happened. Such tragic events.

  2. Not only must I explore more of the East Coast, Salem seems like such a great city for history. Of course, a good ghost tour or haunted cemetary, will just make it even more awesome!

  3. Hello,

    We also have a tour called the Salem Smugglers’ Tour that we would like added to your page if you would be so kind! We offer tours at 3 pm and 8 pm 7 days a week. On The More than Witches Tour we go over how Salem made America’s first millionaires through a series of smuggling tunnels. These millionaires then went on to shape our government and our daily lives to this day! We have stories about the first drunken elephant in America, the murder the game Clue is based on, and how one man from Salem almost controlled the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the National Bank!
    To find out more info please visit

    Thanks for your time and consideration.


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